NHRC, Police: don’t undermine polls’ credibility

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The police and other security agencies have been urged to be professional during and after the general elections on Saturday.

The Southwest Zonal Coordinator, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr Lucas Koyejo and Dr Taiwo Kasumu, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) attached to the Lagos State Command, gave the advice in Lagos.

They spoke at a one-day training workshop on ‘Human Rights Standards and Guidelines For The Conduct of security Personnel on Electoral Duty’.

Koyejo said: “Any evidence or indication that a police officer on electoral duty showed bias towards one political party or another in any form has the potential to undermine the integrity of the elections.”

The programme, which held at the Police Officers Mess, GRA, Ikeja, was organised by the NHRC in collaboration with the Nigeria Policing Programme (NPP).

Participants included officers from the Police, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Lagos Neighbourhood Security Corps (LNSC), Nigerian Prison Service (NPS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), among others.

Koyejo said the police and security personnel on electoral duties have a responsibility to ensure that peaceful conditions are maintained at the polling and counting centres during elections and that the people exercise their franchise without fear or any form of coercion, intimidation, violence or manipulation.

He advised that security personnel during the exercise must be professional  in their conduct and demeanour and discharge their duties with fairness and impartiality.

Aside from advising them to respect the rights of every person, Koyejo admonished them to see themselves as “facilitators of the democratic process and strive to avoid the taking of any arbitrary measures which would inhibit the exercise of democratic rights of the citizens.

“During election time, security personnel have to be more vigilant not to be seen to side with one group or political party. They should not only be neutral and impartial but they must be seen to be neutral and impartial.

“In the context of the elections, they need to ensure citizens are able to vote and participate in the political processes, free from discrimination, verbal or physical abuse, harassment and violence,” he said.

Kasumu, who represented the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, in his lecture titled: “Strategies for De-escalating Conflict on Electoral Duties”, said certain constitutional standards are expected of the Police during elections.

Kasumu asserted that aside from exhibiting high sense of professionalism, the police and other security agencies must remain alert, be approachable, refuse to be a player but maintain impartiality and fairness during the election.

He said they should avoid the use of force, whether moderate or otherwise, all through the conduct of the election.

He admonished members of the command participating in Saturday’s election to aquaint themselves with the electoral law, especially the sections on electoral offences, which they are expected to enforce as police officers.

Representative of the NPP, Blessing Abiri called for collaboration of the Police with other security agencies in order to avert violence and ensure peaceful conduct of the election.

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